Exciting Emerging Tech
12th May 2020
As you’ll hopefully already be aware, Harmonic Finance and Harmonic Operations pride ourselves on recruiting for some of the world’s most cutting-edge technology companies. From running CFO meet-ups with members of the prestigious Tech Nation programmes, through to our MD and Founder Charlie Walker judging some of the UK’s leading start-up and scale-up awards.
As a bit of light relief from that thing we’re all talking about (!), here’s some of our hot takes on the most exciting ‘Emerging Tech’ developments globally.
“New technologies come in S Curves”, according to the Ben Evans, writer of the brilliant weekly tech round-up “Benedict’s Newsletter”.
In this model, new technologies go through three distinct phases.
First, they are Stupid. Then Exciting. And then Boring.
As the new decade has sucker punched its way into existence, so much of everyday technology has become boring.
The biggest trends are all focused around the regulation of Big Tech companies, specifically their use of data and our privacy.
That’s not to say it isn’t important. Indeed, checking the unfettered growth of Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple is argued by some to be the most crucial step we have to take to protect our democracy…
… but it’s not really exciting.
None of us ever got into tech as a kid because of our desire to more stringently monitor its practitioners.
So let’s take a moment to go fully Sci-Fi, to feed our inner child and focus on the genuinely exciting technology that’s going to emerge over the next decade.
And how much more sci-fi can you get than literal flying cars?!
In January 2020, Uber and Hyundai announced a partnership to create a new, fully electric fleet of sky-taxis (God that’s a fun sentence to type), that they hope will be operational by 2023. With a vertical take-off procedure, a cruising speed of 180mph and an altitude of 2,000 feet, the taxis would be able to fly up to four customers on trips up to 60 miles.
The collaboration was brought about by Uber’s adoption of a NASA-style, open-design process. Essentially, Uber made the prototypical concept for the taxis public, hoping that a suitable company would bite. Luckily for all of us, Hyundai did, becoming the first automotive company to partner with the ride-sharing service.
Keep on Truckin’
Staying in motoring, the development of self-driving trucks has entered the fast-lane.
It would have been quicker, but the safety drivers aboard the vehicle were federally mandated to take regular breaks. Which kind of proves the value of automated driving.
To just have these vehicles operating at all hours would not only provide a huge boost to a country’s trade economy, but also to emergency scenarios. Case in point—in September 2017, a self-driving truck was used to aid recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma, continually hauling water 68 miles from one end of Florida to the other.
With all the concerns about coronavirus and its impact on food delivery, it would have certainly been useful if these trucks were fully operational today.
You can’t spell Sci-Fi Fantasy without Elon Musk, so it’s to him we now turn.
Starlink is Musk’s plan to send nearly 12,000 minifridge-sized, geostationary satellites into orbit by the mid 2020s.
There, they will beam high-powered internet to all parts of the globe. No matter how remote, how poor, how desolate. And perhaps because Space X isn’t the only company with a mega-constellation goal, Musk is keen to get on with proceedings, sending up 60 satellites every fortnight from January 2020 onwards.
Starlink looks set to revolutionise the way we communicate as a species.
There are drawbacks. Big ones.
Firstly, it turns out that filling up the sky with satellites increases the chances of collisions (anyone else reminded of Planet Earth in the Pixar film Wall-E?). In September 2019, a European Space Agency satellite had to conduct an emergency evasive manoeuvre to avoid colliding with one of Starlink’s satellites and to avoid becoming history’s most expensive shrapnel bomb.
Additionally, astronomers are appalled by the idea of 12,000 satellites disrupting their view of the heavens. Musk’s claims that Starlink won’t affect astronomers aren’t particularly convincing given the sheer weight of contradictory research by scientists.
Something tells me we will be hearing a lot more about Starlink this decade, one way or another.
Green tech, clean tech
Finally, it looks like if we are to in any way successfully tackle climate change, tech is going to play a huge role.
One of my favourite such “cleantech” companies out there right now is Montreal-based CarbiCrete.
After realising that cement production accounts for an astonishing 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions, they set to work trying to produce concrete without using cement.
They replaced it instead with steel slag, a by-product of the steel-making process that usually ends up in landfills, but now contributes to CarbiCrete’s cost-effective concrete, that is actually carbon negative.
Not neutral. Carbon Negative. Which is pretty unbelievable.
Because that’s the thing. There is exciting tech out there, and all us Sci-Fi nerds are going to have a ball watching the way it impacts our planet over the next decade. But first and foremost we need to have a planet to work with.
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